Owens Corning is looking to move the composite layer that makes new dishwashers so quiet into the automotive industry.
The Toledo, Ohio-based company's VersaMat technology, which marries a glass fiber with a range of resins, currently has limited exposure in cars and trucks, but until now its sales have been focused on home appliances.
The shift into Owens Corning Automotive will make for an increased emphasis for cars and trucks in everything from headliners to door panel substrates, in under-the-hood applications, for trunk storage systems and even under-body heat shields.
``We're just starting to take it seriously into the auto market,'' said Andrew Hopkins, general manager of Owens Corning Automotive, during an Aug. 8 interview at the auto industry's Management Briefing Seminars.
The composite material is made using a low-temperature, low-pressure thermoforming process. It makes a semi-structural system, allowing it to carry its own weight along with the electronics and duct work of an overhead system, for instance, Hopkins said. In addition to acoustic control, it withstands hot and damp conditions.
The final resin mixture that goes into each component will determine the physical attributes of the system, but the capability to mold complex sheets - with thicker density in some areas for strength or specific noise control - will give automakers more opportunity to order complete modules from a single part, he said.
A headliner today, for instance, might consist of as many as six layers of different materials. A VersaMat composite might use just two, including a fabric cover.
``You can consolidate parts; you can provide extra loft here or impact protection there,'' Hopkins said.
VersaMat already is in use in some vehicles, including in a door substrate on General Motors Corp.'s Saturn. The new marketing emphasis is aimed at bringing the product to an even larger audience, and increasing its sales from the current rate of $5 million to $6 million.
``The opportunities on the automotive side are just tremendous,'' Hopkins said. ``We build a lot of dishwashers today, but nothing like the numbers we do today in the auto industry.''